Friday, December 16, 2005

Butt-Numb-A-Thon, Introduction

For four years now, I've been attending an event every December called Butt-Numb-A-Thon. It's a 24-hour film marathon held in Austin, TX at the Alamo Drafthouse theater. On the outside it looks like a hole-in-the-wall, smushed in between a couple of nightclubs at the corner of 4th and Colorado. Inside, it's a real, honest-to-goodness old-school movie theater. Every other row of seats has been removed and replaced with row-length tables, and you can order some pretty great food while you watch your movie.

BNAT is a special event held there every year, an excuse for Harry Knowles to get a bunch of people together around his birthday and celebrate everyone's love of film. Tickets for the event used to be first come first served, but as BNAT has increased in notoriety, Harry has resorted to taking e-mail submissions and selecting the attendees personally. This means a couple of things - 1)It's pretty hard to get in, since around 9000 people are vying for a couple hundred seats, and 2)It's the absolute BEST movie audience anywhere in the world.

Every BNAT has a good mix of the old and the new - forgotten classics to freaky grindhouse fare to premieres of yet-to-be-released films that are sometimes so hush-hush that we're told not to talk about them. Everyone who attends has their suspicions about what will play, but not one of them knows what they'll see until they see it. The whole 24 hours is surprise programming. We all pay to get in - a certain amount for the expense of throwing the party and a little more to help fund a film club Harry runs for kids at the Alamo. It's a good cause, and it's a great party - if you're a film freak.

BNAT (a.k.a. Geek Christmas) seems to go in cycles for me, I think. BNATs 4 and 6 really stand out as years when I very much loved the chosen films, had several favorites, and couldn't wait to get home, go online, and buy several of them. But BNATs 5 and 7 seem to have been more about the experience as a whole and the joy of being a part of that audience. A list of fond memories of the even-numbered BNATs is likely to start with titles like Night Warning and The Black Swan. But a similar list for the odd-numbered BNATs is more likely to start with "the absolute reverence that even non-believers had for the screening of The Passion of the Christ" or "everyone playing their duck-bill kazoos along with the song in the Donald Duck short".

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the programming this year. I enjoyed all of the films (in different ways) very much. But this was less a year about "what I got to see" and more a year of "who I got to see it with." We saw 12 films this year - 7 of them brand new - and in the next several posts I'll see what I can come up with about the films themselves and the experience in general.

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